Man and boy washing car

The Five-Step Guide To Car Cleaning On A Budget

Keeping your car looking great is easy if you have loads of cash to blow – just drop it off at the detailers and they’ll make it look like new – but what if you’re on a tight budget?

By Shell on Jul. 14, 2020

It’s not as easy but it is possible. Just follow these five recommendations and you’ll go a long way to a professional result for a fraction of the cost.

1. Never skimp on car wash

Don’t be tempted to save money using dishwashing liquid on your car’s exterior – it can damage the paint. You won’t be saving big bucks anyway – a 1L bottle of quality car-wash concentrate that’s good for more than 30 washes retails for about $10.

2. Make up a budget car-wash kit

Automotive stores sell a staggering variety of car-cleaning products. But beyond a bucket filled with concentrate and water, you’ll only need a few other things to do the job:

  • A sponge (or, better, a microfibre washing mitt because it doesn’t hold dirt).
  • Some brushes (for cleaning wheels and gunkier areas).
  • Some rags (with soap and water, for wiping down cabin surfaces).
  • Vacuum cleaner (for cleaning carpets and upholstery).

With the top two items retailing in the $10-$20 range and the others probably already lying around your house, a car-wash kit with all the essentials can be cobbled together for as little as $50.

3. Bring out the second bucket

One of the best things you can do for your car costs almost nothing at all. Instead of using just one bucket, get two and use one for the car wash and the other for rinsing the sponge/mitt. This will stop the dirt you’ve just washed off being scrubbed back into your paint and leaving fine scratches.

4. Consider post-wash love

The secret to a truly great-looking car is what you do after the wash. A full wipe-down will prevent water drops drying and leaving unsightly marks on your paint and requires nothing more than a $10 microfibre towel and a few minutes. Applying some wax/polish to the paintwork and wiping down delicate plastics and other surfaces with protectant – two other sub-$20 purchases – are other ways to make your car pop without spending a fortune.

5. Give it some elbow grease

This is the big one. Professionals put in time and effort to make a car look great and you won’t achieve similar results taking shortcuts. That means looking at your car with a critical eye and not rushing the job. If it’s dirty, clean it!


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